10 Minutes in the Kitchen

Tin Can Pizzeria co-owner Caroline Whatley sprinkles tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and corn on the week’s special. Rich Orris
Tin Can Pizzeria co-owner Caroline Whatley sprinkles tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and corn on the week’s special. Rich Orris

Our new feature, 10 Minutes in the Kitchen, follows food from ingredients to plate, drawing back the curtain for a peek inside the unseen world of restaurant cooking.

Tin Can Pizzeria owner Kim Dryden stands in the middle of a pizza oven on wheels. With a careful flick of the wrist, the food truck's signature dough becomes a sphere, getting wider with each turn. Next, a drizzle of olive oil coats the pie and orange cherry tomatoes, grilled corn and fresh mozzarella cover the dough. The pizza is ready for the oven as Dryden's partner, owner Caroline Whatley, twirls her own pie before talking to Xpress.

Tin Can used to get its dough from local bakeries, but you’re about to start making your own. What’s your favorite part of the process?
My favorite parts of the baking process are seeing the pre-ferment when it is at its prime and ready to use. It’s so alive. And shaping — of course shaping. I’ll be mixing without a mixer so I will have my hands in the dough even more!

Your pizza takes like it's wood fired, but it's propane. What's your secret?
Our secret is the dough; a really, really wet dough that has really nice hole structure. That's key. And having an oven that we can turn up pretty hot. So we bake our pizza as hot as the oven will go, which is 650 degrees Fahrenheit. Most wood-burning ovens are operating at around 800 degrees. So we're actually significantly below that. But because we make our dough really thin and we bake [it] straight on the brick, as opposed to on a pan, it allows it to kind of come off tasting and looking like wood-fired pizza.

Tin Can has some pretty creative toppings. Tell us about a couple.
Sure! We change our menu every week, so I can tell you about this week's pizzas. It has olive oil, fresh mozzarella, grilled corn, cherry tomatoes and an avocado pesto. And then we have one with grilled crook neck squash, a toasted walnut pesto and fresh thyme on it, plus Asiago. So it's part of the fun for us to be able to have a really small menu, but that we can change it.

Where do you get your ingredients, other than the dough?
Well, because we started in April before a lot of local was available, we were getting it through Mountain Foods. And we do still get a good amount of produce from them. But now we have several friends that are farmers and we go to the farmers market. So we're getting about half of our produce from local farmers markets and friends that grow and then still some at Mountain Foods.

Do you cook differently in a food truck than you would in a kitchen?
It feels very different, and I like it a lot more. I like the kitchen on the food truck way better than the kitchen at my house. For some reason it feels like a business setting. It's easier for me to delve into it. It's a little bit easier to make a mess and clean it up. Even though the only thing we're doing on the truck is pizza, I feel more efficient in this kitchen than I do in my house.

What do you enjoy most about making pizza?
There's two parts. My favorite part is stretching the dough and then I really love watching a finished pizza go out the door, going to someone. I never tire of that visual, like, the finished product when it comes out as it should, going to the customer.

What do you do when you're not making pizza?
I spend a fair amount of time working on my house, being in the yard. Kim's really good about forcing us to find time to play. I'm not very good at that; she's much better about that. And spending a lot of time eating other people's food. I also do massage and Kim does woodworking and pottery.

If you were a food superhero, what would your superpower be?
Caroline: Our superpower would be doing prep in our sleep.
Kim: It would be getting all the little thyme leaves off of the stems. That's my least favorite.

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